Midtown - the heart of the city, and with more than enough amazing Art Deco buildings to satisfy the biggest fan!
At the intersection of Broadway and 7th Avenue this once grubby rather sleazy area of the 1980s has cleaned up its act in the intervening decades and is all bright lights and busy entertainment now. In 2015, on a wet afternoon, we went up there to take photographs, hoping for atmospheric reflections.
Times Square is named after the New York Times newspaper. It was used as an incentive by August Belmont to persuade the newspaper to move its business to 1 Times Square in 1904. Belmont was building the first subway from Lower Manhattan to the Upper West Side and wanted to attract business along the route.
The move was celebrated with a fireworks party on New Year's Eve which was repeated every year until it was deemed to be unsafe. As a replacement attraction the newspaper installed a huge wood and iron ball which was lowered from the roof of the building - doesn't sound quite so exciting!
Nowadays the ball is a Waterford crystal globe which descends at midnight, the spectacle attracting huge crowds into Times Square every year.
I am a huge Art Deco fan and try to seek out good examples wherever I go. In NYC this is easy - there are hundreds of them! The Art Deco Society of New York website1 was a godsend in whittling them down to a manageable number and learning more about them.
The 1931 Brill Building is doubly interesting as an icon of twentieth century popular music. Here music businesses ranged from songwriters right through to publicity agents - everything an aspiring musician could need. By the 1960s over 160 music-related businesses had offices here.
I was horrified to learn that the interior of this building is to be ripped out - work was already ongoing while we were there.
The entrance is in gleaming brass and glass surmounted by a ziggurat-style window - a shape typical of Art Deco.
The exterior doors lead to a porch and a further set of brass and glass doors into the lobby. This is a long narrow hall, its walls lined with massive glass mirrors.
At the end of the hall is an elevator and mail box, both in beautiful Art Deco design. The corridor was blocked here where building work was going on.
Rockefeller Center occupies a chunk of Manhattan between 5th and 6th Avenues and 48th and 51st Streets. Its 19 buildings include Radio City Music Hall and the iconic 30 Rock otherwise variously known as the RCA, GE and now Comcast Building.
John D. Rockefeller Jr. leased the land from Columbia University in 1928 and initiated the building projects.
Rockefeller Plaza is the centre of the Centre lying east of 30 Rock. Essentially a recreational area the Lower Plaza hosts a cafe/restaurant in summer and the ice rink in winter.
The famous golden sculpture of Prometheus is by Paul Manship, a celebrated American sculptor active throughout the Art Deco period who has several pieces in the plaza.
On the east side of the Plaza is the Channel Gardens - so-called because they separate La Maison Francaise and the British Empire Building.
The doors of the 1932 British Empire Building are particularly impressive. Nine figures represent the might of British trade - a generic merchant seaman and figures representing salt, wheat, wool, coal, fish, cotton, tobacco and sugar.
30 Rock on the west side of the plaza has some of the most beautiful Art Deco designs in the city. Entrances on both Rockefeller Plaza and 6th Avenue are decorated with colorful mosaics and sculpture.
Sculptures by Lee Lawrie above the Plaza entrance to 30 Rock are as famous as Prometheus, depicting Wisdom, Sound and Light.
Inside 30 Rock the Art Deco continues right through to the opposite entrance on 6th Avenue, known as Avenue of the Americas, with its magnificent mosaics and sculptures.
Radio City Music Hall takes up half a block on Avenue of the Americas between 50th and 51st. I believe the interior is magnificent Art Deco but we haven't yet been inside. On the W 50th wall are three beautiful rondels by Hildreth Meière representing dance, drama and song.
This magnificent Beaux Arts building is one of the gems of architectural New York City. The 19th century Beaux Arts style is neoclassical with lavish embellishments.
Monumental architecture is a basic feature of a Beaux Arts building accompanied by elements such as classical columns, chandeliers and decorative carving.
Completed in 1913 it is worth looking into for the enormous Grand Concourse alone: 275 feet long, 120 feet wide and ten storeys high with sweeping staircases at both ends. There are enormous elaborate chandeliers and elegant multi-paned windows - also on a grand scale. The vast vaulted ceiling is completely covered with a mural of starry constellations - as if seen from God's viewpoint!
My absolute favourite building in New York - the epitome of the more flamboyant Art Deco architecture mixed with a little gothic. Designed by William van Alen for the Chrysler Corporation and built in 1928-30, it was one of the first buildings to incorporate large amounts of steel on its exterior.
Art Deco features include the spire of the building which resembles the Chrysler radiator grille, the Chrysler eagles extending from four corners, the geometric stepped ziggurat design, Egyptian elements in the lavish interior.
The Chrysler was briefly the tallest building in the world until the Empire State was completed the following year.
All of the photographs, unless otherwise captioned, were taken in 1984.
Across from the Chrysler, on East 42nd Street, on the corner of Lexington, is another of the greatest Art Deco buildings in New York, especially for its decorative elements: the Chanin Building, architects Sloan & Robertson. Built for Irwin Chanin in 1929 the exterior incorporates bronze, marble and terra cotta. Jacques Delamarre and Renee Chambellan were responsible the glorious architectural and decorative embellishments both inside and out.
All photographs 1984.
Built as the American Radiator Building in 1924 at 40 W 40th St., later renamed the American Standard Building. The striking black and gold exterior is fashioned in a Gothic-influenced Art Deco style.1 Many buildings in the city have fabulous details way above street level - a pair of binoculars would often be useful, or a good telephoto lens! This building is no exception - the top of the tower is particularly attractive.
On the corner of Lexington and 51st the GE Building was completed in 1931 and is another Gothic-inspired Art Deco design.
Again the roof of the tower is one of its best features, even more so than the Bryant Park Hotel. More exuberantly Gothic with some wonderful stone carving including four "electrical deities" with rays emanating from their heads, representing the power of radio.1
The 1931 second home of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue is rather a simple form of Art Deco, even a little cold in its use of the trademark "Waldorf Gray" brick - specially made.2 There are some beautiful elongated metallic reliefs incorporated into the entrance and, common to Art Deco skyscrapers, beautifully embellished elevator doors.
Yet another great Art Deco building, named for the state of New York, the Empire State, was completed in 1931 and instantly became the tallest building in the world at 1250 ft; the 200 foot television antennae was added in 1953.1
An Art Deco skyscraper of quite austere design but with beautiful long vertical lines and blocks. Its spire was meant to be a docking point for dirigibles but, for many reasons, this idea was abandoned; for one thing it was too dangerous due to the powerful updrafts caused by the building itself and for another dirigibles generally need to be tethered at both ends!
Unless otherwise stated photographs are from 2015.
The interior has some beautiful classic Art Deco embellishments making particularly good use of polished metals.
Viewing New York from the observatories on the 86th and 102nd floors helps to appreciate the scale of the city. On a good day the whole of Manhattan island is spread out before you. I went up in 1984 and Andrew and I went to both viewing decks in 2015. The upper level, which is enclosed, gives a better view of Central Park but otherwise there's not a great deal to choose between the two.
In 2015 I took many more photographs than in 1984, especially of the interior, though it was tricky as we were moved through fairly quickly though the guards and ushers were very tolerant!
Images of the building appear as decorative elements. The sunburst also features strongly - a classic Art Deco motif.